The Zen of Calendar-Centric Meeting Notes
Why saving meeting notes in folders is a big problem.
It’s ironic that one of the most interpersonal activities we do at work is also something that is incredibly disconnected from those we work with.
The activity I’m talking about is having meetings, and here’s why.
Work has evolved, and so have our tools. These days, everything about the way we work is more collaborative and connected than ever before.
But meetings remain disassociated because of legacy problems in the way we plan for meetings, run them, and record information around them. So many of these problems stem from treating meeting agendas and notes like any other type of standard note.
While we plan our projects using collaborative software (e.g. Jira) and chat with our co-workers on real-time platforms (e.g. Slack), most people’s meeting notes are just a simple old document, whether that be digital or on paper.
The result is that meetings—one of most company’s largest expenses—end up often being a wasteful use of time. The meeting itself is inefficient, and any information from the meeting isn’t adequately captured or shared. Meetings don’t become a source of momentum for the company, they become a source of friction and a place for information to get buried or lost.
If we want to fix the way meetings are broken, we must fix how we think about our critical meeting documents: how we plan for meetings (agendas) and how we record insights and next steps (meeting notes).
Documents in folders = information hidden in silos
Most note-taking applications organize documents in folders. Some apps call these folders “notebooks” but the concept is the same—one document can go in one place. To find information about that meeting, you have to know where to look.
Even seemingly collaborative documents—like Google docs for example—when created and organized in folders become inherently siloed. Folders require constant attention to alert others about the existence of said “collaborative” document. You must set the correct sharing settings, and then file your note in the right place every time
Storing meeting notes in folders makes it harder for teams to organize, share, and retrieve information, and makes it almost impossible to take action based on what is happening in the meeting without resorting to other tools. And that is if you’re fortunate enough to have everyone using the same note-taking app or software.
That’s why, in this climate, it makes perfect sense that many people prefer to email notes and agendas—it’s the only way to keep them from getting lost entirely.
The solution begins with your calendar
At Hugo, we believe that meeting agendas and notes should be linked to meeting events. That’s why our approach is to organize your meeting documents based on your calendar.
In every calendar event is a beautiful amount of data makes your meeting notes and agendas much more searchable, shareable, and actionable.
Calendar-centric notes can automatically self-organize
Organizing information is a pain. It takes time, which is why a lot of people don’t do it. And if you are using a folder-based organization scheme, even if the document does make it to the correct folder, it can still be cumbersome to find what you’re looking for.
How do you choose which folder to put your information in?
Meetings occur with multiple people, companies, and teams. They exist across time and space. They encompass an array of topics.
You can only choose one folder though.
With folder-based note-taking tools, the primary way to locate information is usually keyword-based searches. That can make it difficult or impossible to retrieve information with any nuance or filtering due to the volume of information.
Instead, Hugo’s calendar-centric approach allows meeting notes and agendas to self-organize based on all the data in the calendar invite. If someone is at a meeting with you, by default Hugo offers to share the agenda with them. The same thing goes for notes on the meeting.
Without doing anything, you can find your notes based on who was there, what team they’re on, and what company they’re at—all of that happens automatically.
(Of course, you can set documents to be private if you like.)
Notes for team activities shouldn’t exist in a vacuum
Typically in a meeting, you have a relatively small group of people having a discussion behind a closed door, physical or virtual. However, the content of that meeting can be useful outside of the meeting itself, both at other times, or for people who didn’t attend.
So in addition to automatically sharing notes and agendas with other attendees, we can also make it easy for the rest of the organization to stay in sync, whether that be by posting notes to Slack, or filing notes in a centralized repository so that, as the need arises, these notes can be found and retrieved by the team.
Either way, when you enable meeting transparency, you often see two benefits. One is that people feel more in-the-know, and are comfortable skipping some meetings because the notes provide enough information. The other is that teams become more aligned and more capable because you have defaulted to proactively sharing information rather than burying it in folders.
Notes from meetings often relate to other meetings
A good portion of most people’s meetings are recurring—happening on a consistent basis and with the exact same meeting title. Also, many other meetings are part of a series, where you meet with similar people to work on a project, or manage a customer relationship.
Again, for these team sync-up and customer check-ins, if you’re storing a meeting in a folder, you only have one dimension of information to choose from.
But when taking a calendar-centric approach to meeting notes, where data is stored relationally, it’s simple to surface notes from related meetings. This makes looking at what happened at last week’s meeting, or in the last meeting with that customer, incredibly easy, as long as your meeting notes are calendar-centric.
Linking 3 documents: events, agendas, and notes.
Let’s not forget that in the old way of doing things, each meeting might have three “documents.” You have the meeting invite itself (in the calendar), the meeting’s agenda, and then notes for the meeting.
The meeting invite lands in your calendar, the agenda is often in the event description (even though rich formatting is not supported and it’s not a suitable place for an agenda), and any meeting notes could end up in your email if someone is lucky enough to have shared them.
Having the content around your meeting so disorganized makes it difficult to do anything but discard or lose information.
Instead, using our calendar-based approach, your meeting, agenda, and notes are all nicely linked from a data point of view. This can easily include either one collaborative meeting note that everyone can contribute to, or multiple notes for various people. It’s all related to the same meeting. It’s just as easy to search for this information as anything else in Hugo.
The calendar is one of many tools, but not the only one
The calendar was Hugo’s first integration, but we didn’t stop there.
Many companies like to store meeting notes in the CRM as a best practice. That’s not a problem. With integrations with leading CRMs like Salesforce, Hubspot, Pipedrive and more, Hugo can automatically sync your meeting notes to the correct contacts and accounts in your CRM, using—you guessed it— data gleaned from the calendar, in this case, the attendees of the meeting.
We also integrate with all the leading task management programs: Jira, Asana, Trello, and Todoist.
Just as meeting documents shouldn’t get lost in folders, tasks and action items shouldn’t get lost in meeting notes. With minimal work, you can push next steps from your meeting notes into the other systems where they really belong.
End the meeting disconnect with connected meeting notes
Meetings aren’t just where decisions get made, they also have a disproportional impact on team culture as well. When you connect your meeting notes to your calendar and other tools, you not only open up the flow of information, you create a more aligned and transparent team culture, one where meetings become a source of velocity and success.
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